5 Essential ways to clean your Seashells

How to clean your Seashells

Do not make it a habit to collect “live” shells, but occasionally you or your children will pick up one which has been stranded on the beach. There are several known methods for cleaning your live shell specimens. Below are the 5 essential ways to clean your Seashells.

Burying: This is probably the easiest, but takes a couple of months. Locate an area in your yard where you can dig a hole. Bury the seashells about  50 cm (deep enough so animals will not dig them up). They need to remain buried until insects, larvae, worms, and bacteria remove all the tissue. The longer you leave them the better.

Freezing: Place seashells in a water-tight plastic bag, cover with water, then place in the freezer (just like you would do to fresh fish). When you are ready to clean them, let the bag thaw at room temperature until completely defrosted. You should be able to grab hold of the animal inside and gently pull it out. 

Boiling: Place seashells in a pan, add water, and bring to a boil. Let boil for a few minutes, (the more shells the longer). Use tongs to remove one shell at a time. So you don’t burn yourself, grasp shell with gloves or a towel and gently pull out the animal tissue inside.

Microwave: As long as you don’t mind the smell in your microwave, this is an easy method. The time it takes to cook your seashells can really vary by microwave, so just try it until you figure out how long for each shell. Grasp cooked shell with gloves or a towel and gently pull out the animal tissue inside.

A seashell that is found already dead is actually a lot easier to clean. Follow these easy instructions:

Bleaching: Soak the seashells in a 50-50 solution of bleach and water. The length of time depends on the type of seashells and the quantity of seashells being cleaned. Just be sure to remove them when the “periostracum” is gone. 
The periostracum is a thin organic coating or “skin” which is the outermost layer of the shell of many shelled animals, including mollusks and brachiopods.

02-07-2011 2 Surf clam w periostracum

  periostracum

Barnacles: If there are still barnacles and other matter on the seashells, you can use an instrument, such as a dental pick, to chip off the material. Other useful tools are a toothbrush, grill brush, wire brush or a water pick.

Shining: If you want to give your seashells a nice finish, you can wipe them with mineral or baby oil.

Cleaning Sand Dollars

If the sand dollars are dead let them dry for a few days, then put them in a container with a little bleach. You may need to brush them gently. Do not let them bleach for too long as they tend to crumble. 
If you have the time you can just let them set all winter and they will dry and whiten by themselves. 
If you leave sand dollars out in the sun too long they tend to become brittle and break easily. There is a commercial preservative that can be brushed on to harden the sand dollar.

13 thoughts on “5 Essential ways to clean your Seashells

  1. Hi Linda,

    I am so sorry that I didn’t get back to you sooner. I have been moving and doing training on how to add the Seashells to my website. I use to live in Phoenix, AZ, So I know exactly what you are talking about. I went to Belize last year with my mom on a cruise, so I was only there for one day, but I got to go on a boat down the river and to the Mayan Ruins. It was so beautiful. I hope to go back there someday, so I can go beachcombing. Did you like living in Belize?

    Thank you so much for visiting my website and am happy that I could share the passion for shells and ocean with you. You will have to take a vacation soon and go stay on the beach somewhere, so you can go beachombing again. Rocky Point is not that far away, and you could get some great shells there as well as getting some treasure hunting in. You could get alot of items if you went to the beach near the resorts there. You dont know what you could find there. Maybe some gold coins from an old Spanish Ship. Wouldn’t that be great!

    Come back to visit me again soon, when I have all the Seashells with their information and description on my website. I will also be building a store to sell my Seashell Art.

    Thank you again for visiting me.

    Happy Shelling,

    Kinda Bush
    TropicalSeashellTreasures.com
    kbush@tropicalseashelltreasures.com

  2. Hello Kinda,

    It is so wonderful that you are able to live next to an ocean. I’m in the middle of the Sonoran Desert in Arizona and when I get to the sea I cry and when I leave it I cry. Thinks me that I should be living next to an ocean. Maybe someday, that’s another story for another time.

    I really enjoy your website and these instructions are wonderful for helping to preserve the treasure found when beachcombing and treasure hunting. I found a few very cool bottles, very old bottles beachcombing in Belize when I lived there over 34 years ago.

    Thanks for sharing your passion for shells and the wonder of being next to the ocean with me.

    Linda

  3. Thank you for visiting my website. I hope you find a lot of seashells in the near future. They are so beautiful and there are so many things that you can do with seashells. Next time you go to the beach look around and figure out which ones you like the best. Collect as many as you can fit in your pockets, or better yet bring a bucket or a bag. Then clean the shells when you get home and put them in a bowl or a vase for your coffee table. Another thing I love to do is buy a wood picture frame and glue the shells all around it, then put a picture in it from your beach trip.

    Come back and sea all the wonderful images with the description and information of the wonderful seashells of Florida. It’s a work in progress, but I hope to have my seashells page up soon.

    Again thank you for visiting my website. If you have any suggestions or any information you would like me to post about. Please don’t hesitate to let me know.

    Happy Shelling

    Kinda Bush
    Kbush@TropicalSeashellTreasures.com

  4. Hi Kinda,

    Thanks for this informative article! To be honest I haven’t ever found any stranded seashells like this but I’m glad I know what to do when I inevitably do. I love sea shells!

    I would never have thought of burying them so that’s really interesting to know!

    Keep up the great work.

    All the best

    Katia 🙂

  5. Thank you for visiting my website. You are very blessed to be able to have a sailboat and go to any beach you want. I hope to one day be able to do the same, once my seashell Art that I make starts selling and I get followers like yourself to buy products that I recommend. I Do love the beach so much and go there as much as I can, to collect seashells and relax in a chair on the edge of the water. I also like to read at the beach.

    I am still working on the seashells right now. I have to crop, resize and compress 139 seashell pictures and add the description and information. I have a goal set to add 5 posts a day on the seashells pages. Unfortunately I have been not feeling well lately, so there has been a delay in my progress. I am doing good now, so I will be getting them on my site as fast as I can.

    Thank you for commenting on my site. Please come back often to check on my progress.

    Happy Shelling
    Kinda Bush
    tropicalseashelltreasures.com

  6. Hello Kinda!

    i am very excited to have found your blog and appreciate the suggestions here for cleaning treasure of shells.

    I have been blessed to spend many gorgeous nights on beaches and on our sailboat enjoying the splendor of the ocean. I am convinced that your love for shells and the ocean are going to more and more be reflected in your blog. I’m looking forward to seeing the pics you have been preparing to upload.

    Very great idea for a blog. I’ll be coming back!

    Linda

  7. Thank you for visiting my website. I think that this information would be a great science project, to do with your kids.I hope you come back and see what information I will be posting next. I am working on the seashells to post on my Seashells page, right now. I have to crop, resize and compress 139 seashell pictures and add the description and information. I have a goal set to add 5 posts a day on the seashells pages, starting this weekend. You will have to let me know how the microwave method works for you and your children.

    Again thank you,

    Happy Shelling
    Kinda Bush
    tropicalseashelltreasures.com

  8. Thank you Michelle, for visiting my website. I had so much fun when my daughter was little, when we where at the beach collecting seashells. I think that this information would be a great science project, to do with your child. Have fun on your next beach trip, come back and see what information I will be posting next. I am working on the seashells to post on my Seashells page, right now. I have to crop, resize and compress 139 seashell pictures and add the description and information. I have a goal set to add 5 posts a day on the seashells pages, starting this weekend.

    Thank you for commenting on my site. I wish you and your daughter well.

    Happy Shelling
    Kinda Bush
    tropicalseashelltreasures.com

  9. Hi Seth, You can clean them when they are wet or dry. It is your preference. When I come home from the beach with Seashells. I fill the back with water and bleach and let sit overnight. Then I set them out to dry. If I need to do any more cleaning I follow the directions on the 5 Essential ways to clean your Seashells.

    I am working on the seashell imagesto post on my website, right now. I have to crop, resize and compress 139 seashell pictures and add the description and information. I have a goal set to add 5 posts a day on the seashells pages. Please come back often to check on my progress and share this website with any of your beachcomber friends.

    Thank you for commenting on my site.

    Happy Shelling
    Kinda Bush
    tropicalseashelltreasures.com

  10. I always collect death seashell and dry them up first and clean later. Is this a good one or not?

  11. Genius! I never knew there were so many different ways to clean sea shells! Having a child of my own, we often pick up lots of shells on our visits to beaches, but never know how to clean them properly, or how to make them look really good.
    Thanks for the great information – I will give some of these a go and look forward to our next beach trip for a bit of collecting 🙂

  12. I very much enjoyed your post. I have always wondered what the proper way to clean seashells was. My grand-daughter found a beautiful live one last year and I had no idea how we should clean it. I had heard they would start stinking if they weren’t done properly. The animal died and we got it out, but I didn’t know what to do then.

  13. Great informative article. Thanks for all the advice. My children will love this..i may try the microwave method.

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